The group of Indo-Europeans who settled closest to their original homeland were Slavs. The region where they settled first was today’s Ukraine and Byelorussia. It was an ideal place for cereal farming, which encouraged the settlers to turn to agriculture rather than war or conquest. By 1000 BC they started to move westwards, occupying territory around the Vistula River. Around 700 BC, the territory occupied by Slavs was conquered by another Indo-European tribe, the Scythians who came from the south. By 100 BC, Scythians mastered the area, outfighting the agricultural Slavic farmers. By 200 BC another Indo-European invaders, called Sarmatians began to replaced the Scythians as masters of the Slavic lands. The Scythians were absorbed by new conquerors. In 600 BC an Indo-European tribe of Goths came from the Northern Europe and conquered the Sarmatians occupying Eastern Europe.
As the Roman Empire began to unravel at the seams, the Slavs started moving westwards, first penetrating Balkan peninsula and then into central Europe. By 650 AD the Slav seized the coastline along the Adriatic Sea opposite Italy. They also later penetrated as far south as Turkey, where these elements were swallowed up into a larger mass occupying that country.
2. Finno-Ugrian languages
The Finno-Ugrian or Uralic language family includes a group of languages (mainly) in northern Eurasia. (According to the traditional terminology, Uralic means both main branches of the language family, the Finno-Ugrian and the Samoyedic languages, but some colleagues use "Finno-Ugrian" as a synonym for "Uralic".)
The greatest Finno-Ugrian languages are Hungarian (ca. 14 million speakers), Finnish (ca. 5 million) and Estonian (1 million). Other Finno-Ugrian languages are smaller, practically all of them more or less endangered. Some hypotheses have been made concerning the possible genetic relationship between Uralic and other language families (Altaic, Indo-European or even Basque, for example), but Finnish Uralicists at least take a very reserved attitude towards them.
Since language is not inherited genetically, linguistic relationship does not necessarily imply a genetic relationship between speakers (no more than there is, for example, between all the speakers of present-day Indo-European languages). The present-day peoples speaking Uralic languages do not share especially many genetic characteristics: there is no "Uralic race". Physically, and also culturally, most "Uralic peoples" have more in common with their neighbours (e.g. Finns with Swedes) than with each other13. The ways of living are very different, too: e.g. the Saami and the Nenets have traditionally supported themselves with reindeer breeding, hunting and fishing; most Uralic-speaking peoples in Europe have been farmers; the Hungarians, in their earliest history, were horse nomads of the steppe.
All the Uralic languages originate from a common proto-language, but down the centuries, they have branched off into separate offshoots. The precise origins and geographical range of Progo-Uralic nevertheless remains a point of academic contention. Previously it was assumed that Proto-Uralic, or Proto-Finno-Ugric, originated from a narrowly confinded region of eastern Russia. Linguistic differentiation was believed to occur as these Proto-Uralic peoples migrated their separate ways. One of other theories postulates that the origins of Proto-Uralic are in continental Europe. The "contact theory," again, suggests that the proto languages of the language families of today developed as a result of convergence caused by close interaction between speakers of originally different languages. However many linguists support the notion that the Uralic languages have so many points in common in their basic structures - both in grammar and vocabulary - that these similarities cannot plausibly be attributed to interaction between unrelated language groups across such a broad geographical range. Rather we must presume that they share a common point of origin whence they derive their characteristic features and whence their geographical range began to expand: as it expanded, speakers of other languages who fell within its range presumably changed their original language in favour of Proto-Uralic14.
The origin of the Hungarian language is one of the several mysteries that surround the early history of the Magyars. For long it has been believed that Hungarian belongs to the Ugric branch of the Uralic language family based on a relatively large number of words (~300-400) of Finno-Ugric origin in the language. Hungarian, like other Finno-Ugric languages is agglutinative, which means word meanings are modified by adding different and multiple endings or suffixes to the words, rather than using prefixes like, for example, in English. On the other hand, several linguists believe that Hungarian is related to Turkic, rather than to Finno-Ugric languages. Turkic languages are also agglutinative, but they are classified into the Altaic language family. They form a sister group with the Finno-Ugric language family, and supposedly both groups originated from the same Ural-Altaic proto-language, although this idea has also been challenged. The most closely related language to Hungarian is spoken on the eastern side of the Ural Mountain in western Sibiria by Khanty and Manshi people. Finnish, Estonian, and some other smaller languages within the Finno-Ugric language family are much more distantly related to Hungarian15.
Map 5: Indo-European Languages
II. European languages and ethnic groups at present
1.The Romance languages area in Europe
The Romance languages are spoken by about 600 million people across the globe. All of these languages derive from Latin and came into being between 5th and 8th century. Latin was the official language of the Roman Empire. After brake up of this country in 5th century, the Latin began to evolve into different new languages.
Nowadays there are five national standard languages that are recognized including French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian (diagram 1). There are also several dialects/languages as well, such as Catalan, Occitan, Romansh, Galician, Corsican, Sicilian and Rhaeto-Romance, but language status is accorded in different ways, and usually on cultural grounds.
The modern Romance languages have a high number of lexical overlap. French and Italian share 89% lexical similarity, as do Spanish and Portuguese. (It should be noted that Sicilian is as different from standard Italian as Portuguese is from Spanish.). However, Spanish and Portuguese have borrowed from Arabic, French from Germanic, and Romanian from Slavic because of historical and geographical reasons.16
It is impossible to write about all ethnic groups and their languages in Europe because of its variety. Therefore only some of them would be described in this study.
Diagram 1: Simplified Proto-Indo-European language tree.
1.1. Iberian Peninsula
Iberian Peninsula is dominated by Romance languages from the Ibero-Romance group of languages. Two national languages – Portuguese and Spanish are widely spoken not only in these two countries, but also in other parts of the world. Other languages evolved from the same base and are more or less similar to Spanish, Portuguese, Italian or French. On the map 6 we can see location of several main languages and dialects. Galician (about 3,5 million speakers in Spain and Portugal) and Asturian (100,000 first language speakers, plus 450,000 second language speakers able to speak or understand it) in north-western part of peninsula.
Map 6: Languages on Iberian Peninsula
Extramadurian spoken in Autonomous region of Extremadura in western Spain by 200,000 active speakers, plus 500,000 people able to use it, out of 1,1 million people in the ethnic group. Aragonese is spoken in the north-eastern part of Spain near the Pyrenees. The ethnic group of is estimated on 2 million people, but there are only about 11,000 active speakers and additional 20,000 people use it as second language. 17
Catalan language has 87% lexical similarity with Italian, 85% with Portuguese and Spanish, 76% with Rhaeto-Romance, 75% with Sardinian, 73% with Romanian. It is spoken in northern-eastern part of Spain, on Balearic Islands, in south France, it is official language in Andorra (with French). There are about 6,4 million mother tongue speakers (1996), plus 5,000,000 second or third language speakers in Spain.18
Catalonian history and culture is very different from that of the Spanish south: Catalonians don’t appreciate bull fighting, don’t dance the flamenco, don’t retain in their social life the feudal attitude found in other parts of Spain, and they don’t think of themselves as Spaniards, but Catalonians first and foremost. Catalonia is one of the richest regions in Spain. Catalonians are proud of their country and try to show their independence in every aspect of life. Good example of such urge for independence are labels on the back of the cars showing its proprietor country of origin. In Catalonia it is often not “SP” but “CAT”. Although it is part of Spain, sometimes it is very hard to communicate in Spanish, not because Catalonians don’t speak this language, but because they just don’t like to do it. At the opening of the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992 the Catalonian flag was displayed and national anthem was played before those of Spain.
If considering main ethnic groups in this region, we can see that only the Basques who live in northern Spain (map 6) and southern France (map 7) have different roots. The Basque language, euskara or euskera, is unique. Its origins are still unknown. Scholars have concluded that it predates the migrations from the East, which brought the Indo-European languages into Europe some 3,000 years ago.
The first written records for the Basques are from the Romans. At that time there were four tribes in the Basque country, the Vascones, the Vardulos, the Caristios, and the Autrigones. The Romans loosely ruled the region, yet with persistent rebellion. Also the Visigoths engaged in repeated wars against the Basques, but never actually ruled them. So the Basques resisted domination from the beginning of their history. Basque people have lived under centuries of semi-autonomous rule. During Franco's régime, however, this autonomy was drastically restricted. As a result, Basque nationalists, in conjunction with the newly-formed (1959) Euskadi ta Askatasuna (ETA) began to carry out acts of violence against a variety of targets.
Today the Basque Country has autonomy, its own tax system, police, parliament, regional government and Basque language is taught in schools. About 650,000 people speak Basque language. But terrorism became a serious problem in this region. Nationalists from ETA, whose goal is national liberation and self-determination, has dominated the society and instilled a constant fear in the citizens and the leaders of the country. The interesting thing is the fact that only about 5 to 10 % of the population follow the same kind of nationalism as members of ETA.19
Regions with Francophone domination
French is spoken by 51 million people in France as a first language. Total population in all countries where French is spoken as a first language is estimated at 77 million, 128 million including second language speakers. In Europe French is official language in France, Belgium (with Dutch and Standard German), Switzerland (with Standard German, Italian, Rhaeto-Romance), Luxembourg (with Standard German and Luxembourgeois), Andorra (with Catalan-Valencian-Balear) and in Monaco.
In France there are several dialects which are widely spoken especially in the southern part of the country, but generally everybody treats French as the first language.
Dialects in France
Provençal is spoken fluently by about 250,000 people in south-eastern France, but also by about 100 thousand people in Italy and 4,500 in Monaco. Regional French has a lot of Provençal influence. Most Provençal speakers are over 50 years old. Regional pride and increasing status of Provençal as a literary language provoke strong demand for teaching in school and printing books in Provençal. Frederic Mistal, French poet and Provençal patriot, who wrote in Provençal, was given in 1904 the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Languedocien is a separate language from Provençal. About 10% of the population in the region speaks this language fluently, but usually it is used as a second language to talk to family and close friends. It is mainly spoken in rural communities by people over 50. In the past there were some attempts to standardize Languedocien for all languages of southern France, but it has not been accepted by speakers of other dialects.
Another dialect is Gascon. Gascon speakers have some intelligibility of Provençal, but rather limited intelligibility of Languedocien. In 1990 there were about 250,000 speakers of Gascon in France, living mostly in the south-western part of the country.20
Map 7: Languages in France
French is the official language of Corsica, but a large number of Corsicans speak Corsican - Corsu. It has no current legal status, but there are some proposals of French Government for a new Corsican statute.
Corsican is not a dialect of French. It is an Indo-European language of Romance or Latin origin, influenced by Tuscan. It was an oral language and it was only at the end of the 19th century that it came to be written. Being orally transmitted, it has many variations, even from village to village. To the untutored ear, it sounds a bit like Italian and the Corsicans and Italians can understand each another.21
Breton is a language of completely different roots than Romance languages and is spoken in France in Brittany. The Breton language is the only Celtic language spoken on the continent and it is now in a strongly contrasting situation. It was spoken by more than a million people at the beginning of the 20th century. Recent surveys (in the absence of a real census) show that 250,000 people speak the language daily and 600,000 people are capable of understanding it. There are about 800,000 school-going children in Brittany. Only 5,700 of them can benefit from bilingual schooling (Breton-French). But the number of pupils in the bilingual schools is progressing every year by 15 to 20 %.22
One of the most interesting habits of Bretons is Breton wrestling (gouren), which was practiced in the court of Arthur, is still a Breton most famous and the noblest of sports. In the Middle Ages, the lords used it as good training for war. A Celtic hand to hand fight, "ar gouren" reached its peak in the last century. The combat was begun often during popular festivals and pardons. A man who wished to fight got up, took the trophy (handkerchief, silver or a sheep), and walked around the special circle. If one of his adversaries shouted to him in the following manner: "chom't ho sao! (stay where you are) and touched his shoulder, he took up the challenge. To be victorious, he had to make his adversary fall on his two shoulder blades, and once again he had to challenge the wrestlers until only one valiant fighter remained. During fight the crowd often became heated and excited so the organizer had to be armed with a whip or a black bottomed frying pan to keep order.23
Regions with Italian domination
Italian is the official language in Italy, Switzerland and San Marino. It is also spoken in former Italian colonies and in countries with Italian immigrants. There are about 55 million mother tongue speakers and about 62 million if counting ethnic groups using Italian as second language.
The Italian language displays historical and contemporary influences. While Standard Italian is the official language of the country, Italy is still divided into distinct regions with dialectical varieties, evolving mainly from Latin. At the time of the Unification of Italy in 1861, most of its citizens were monolingual, speaking only the dialectical variety of their region. Seventy years later, due to the strong influence of the army and schooling systems, the dialect spoken in Tuscany had spread throughout the country as the common language. Despite attempts to standardize, the majority of Italians today continue to be bilingual, speaking their dialects in social situations, and using Standard Italian in formal occasions.
Some of the dialects like Venetian or Emilia-Romagna are quite similar to Standard Italian. Other differ from Tuscan dialect so much that people speaking in these dialects cannot understand each other.
The evolution of dialects, for example Sardinian, Sicilian and Calabrian was mainly provoked by the domination of different cultures over these regions. Latin largely influences Sicilian dialects, despite this region's volatile history: it was conquered both by Greek and Arabic speaking countries. As churches began using Latin in their masses, the Arabic language was discarded. In the Northern parts of the island, the Greek language did not die out until the 16th Century. There are still words and place names such as Taormina that leave clues about its previous rulers. Today, there are still towns using dialects that draw from Greek.24
The Albanian dialect of Italy, a language that now bears little resemblance to the standard language of Albania, which is called Shqip, is spoken over a wide area comprising 49 towns and villages, a veritable archipelago of linguistic islands extending from the Abruzzi Appenines to the south of Italy and to Sicily and situated mainly in mountainous or semi-mountainous regions.
Various sources put the number of Albanian speakers in Italy at around 100,000, although it has not been possible to obtain reliable statistics since 1921, when Italy discontinued the practice of collecting census data on linguistic minorities. Moreover, the most reliable sources suggest that between 10 and 20% of the ethnic Albanians in Italy no longer speak the language, which would reduce this figure to between 80,000 and 90,000. In addition, there is a marked, if not quantifiable, decline in the use of Albanian for social interaction among young people, who prefer to use Italian or the Romance dialects of the various regions in which they live.
The Albanian communities, mainly rooted in semi-rural and rural regions of southern Italy, are experiencing the same depopulation phenomenon as is observable in the Italian- and Greek-speaking communities of the region. Massive emigration to the industrial centres of Italy and western Europe is due to a lack of job opportunities and to the gradual and increasingly rapid abandonment of traditional economic activities (cultivation, crafts and trades, livestock farming). The emigration process was particularly intense during the fifties and sixties. Calculations undertaken at the time reveal that the regions where ethnic Albanians live lost almost 20% of their total population during that period.25
In Italy there is a huge problem of Albanian immigration from Albania to Italy through Adriatic Sea. In 1991 24,000 Albanian refugees arrived in Italy within three days. The Ministry for Italians Communities Abroad and for Immigration gave the Albanians work permits. Yet when 15,000 Albanians arrived later that year the reception was less than welcoming, because they were sent back to Albania. The problems has been compounded since the 1999 invasion of Kosovo and the subsequent NATO air strikes when 800,000 ethnic Albanians left their homes.
Rhaeto-Romanic is a collective term for three dialects of the Romance family spoken in north-eastern Italy and south-eastern Switzerland. Of about 600,000 speakers of Rhaeto-Romanic, about 90 percent are in Italy, but there the language has no official status. The Swiss dialect on the other hand, known as Romansch, is one of Switzerland's four official languages, despite the fact that it is spoken by only one percent of the population.26
The Romance enclave in Romania
The official language of Romania is Romanian which is spoken by about 20,5 million people in Romania and 26 million if counting total population in all countries. Romanian has 77% lexical similarity with Italian, 75% with French, 74% with Sardinian, 73% with Catalan, 72% with Portuguese and Rhaeto-Romance, 71% with Spanish. It is also official language in Moldova.
Romanian has four dialects - Daco-romanian - generally referred as Romanian, Istro-Romanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Macedoromanian. It is thought that the Romanian language appeared north and south of the Danube. All the four dialects are offsprings of the Romance languge spoken before the settlement of the Slavonian tribes both in the North and South Danube.
Most words in Romanian vocabulary (about 65%) are of Latin origin, but it also contains many words borrowed from its Slavonic and Turkish neighbours (about 20%) and more recently French, German and English words entered the spoken language.27
There are more than twelve million Roma (Gypsies) located in many countries around the world. There is no way to obtain an exact number since they are not recorded on most official census counts. About 250 thousand Gypsies live in Romania. Many Roma themselves do not admit to their true ethnic origins for economic and social reasons. The Roma are a distinct ethnic minority, distinguished at least by Rom blood and the Romani language, whose origins began on the Indian subcontinent over one thousand years ago. The roots of this Indo-European language comes from ancient Punjabi or Hindi.
No one knows for certain why the original Roma began their great migration from India to Europe and beyond, but they have dispersed worldwide, despite persecution and oppression through the centuries.
The word Gypsies come from insufficient knowledge of Roma history. Because Roma arrived to Europe from the East, they were thought by the first Europeans to be from Turkey, Nubia or Egypt, or any other acknowledged non-European places, so they were called “Egyptians” or “Gyptians”, which is where the word "Gypsy" comes from.
The spoken Romani language is varied, but all dialects contain some common words in use by all Roma. Based on language, Roma are divided into three populations. They are the Domari of the Middle East and Eastern Europe (the Dom), the Lomarvren of Central Europe (the Lom), and the Romani of Western Europe (the Rom). There is no universal written Romani language in use by all Roma. However, the codification of a constructed, standardized dialect is currently in progress by members of the Linguistic Commission of the International Romani Union.28
Languages of Northern Europe
Map 8: Language groups in the area inhabited by the Sami
Source: (The Sami people 1990)
2.1. Sami minority in Finland, Sweden and Norway.
The native territory of the Samis is situated in the northern part of Fennoscandia, Sweden, along the coast of the Arctic Ocean over Norway and Finland to the central part of the Kola Peninsula in Russia. This area, extending over four countries, is 2000 km long, covering almost 400,000 sq. km. In the past the Sami territory used to reach farther South, but under the pressure of other peoples they have been forced to move northwards. There has been introduced a definition of Sami, which is primarily based on linguistic criteria. So in Finland a "Sami" is a person who identifies himself or herself as a Sami and he himself or herself, or at least one of his or her parents or grandparents, learnt Sami as their first language. In Norway and Sweden the basic criterion is the relation to reindeer-herding. In these countries citizenship is not separated from nationality, and therefore the number of Samis cannot be determined unambiguously. According to the Sami Council there are 30,000-70,000 Samis in Scandinavia.
The main problem of the Samis is their dispersion in four different countries. It has been unfavourable for their consolidation and for the formation of a national administrative unit. The vast territory has contributed to the development of dialects into separate languages. Because of the rapid modernisation on the way of their life in the 20th century, Samis have problems in adaptation into their new environment (e.g. national industrialisation projects).
The Sami language belongs to the Finno-Ugric branch of the Uralic family, and is closely related to the Baltic Sea-Finnish languages, such as Finnish and Estonian. There are a number of theories as to the origins of the language. One of these is that the Sami previously spoke a quite different language, known as Proto-Lappish. Others believe that the ancestors of the Sami, who are generally believed to have come from the east, spoke an entirely different language, which was related to Baltic Sea Finnish, and that this language was strongly influenced by contact with Finnish. 29
"The Sami language" is a misleading term in that there are three distinct languages: East Sami, Central Sami and South Sami. Central Sami includes North Sami, Pite Sami and Lule Sami. The main dialects are generally believed to be the following; South Sami, Ume Sami, Pite Sami, Lule Sami, North Sami, Inari Sami, Skolt Sami, Kildin Sami and Ter Sami
Within the past few decades there has been a notable upsurge of national feelings and self-confidence of the Samis. Very important is the growing importance of Sami as the language of instruction at schools. The unified system of orthography of Northern Sami (introduced 1978) enables to link the educational and cultural life of Samis in Norway, Sweden and Finland. Today there are laws of the Sami language in Norway, Finland and Sweden, which help regulate the functioning of Sami as the language of education and management. The literary Kildin Sami language has been revived on the basis of the Cyrillic alphabet (1982). The Sami language is taught at Lujavr (Lovozero) School on the Kola Peninsula. Linguistic research and regulation of the usage of Sami have intensified; Sami fiction and film have emerged.30